Add: 2/F The PuLi Hotel and Spa, 1 Chang De Road, Shanghai 常德路1号，璞麗酒店2楼
Tel: +86 (21) 2216 6988
Hours: [lunch] Mon-Fri 12pm-2:30pm; [brunch] Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm; [dinner] Mon-Sun 6pm-10pm
Price: [dinner tasting] 888; [lunch set] 198/248; [à-la-carte] 400-500 (+16.6% tax and service charge)
Visited: November 2018
Will return: Yes
A sprawling, generic-looking mall on Century Avenue in Pudong seems an unlikely place for culinary distinction. Yet that is precisely where I encountered one of my most unexpected restaurant discoveries in recent memory. On the top floor of the new Century Link mall, a small cluster of restaurants surround a rooftop garden; one of them is C Pearl, a seafood-centered restaurant from the same group behind The Plump Oyster and Osteria.
Executive chef Mr. Elijah Holland and chef-de-cuisine Mr. Joshua Moroney bring a wealth of ideas to C Pearl — from foraging to locavorism — many of which have yet to find a foothold in Shanghai’s dining scene at large. Some of the herbs served at C Pearl are plucked from various parks around Shanghai, to which Mr. Holland, formerly head forager for Noma’s 2016 pop-up in Australia, has turned his keen eye for all plants edible. The rest are grown in the rooftop garden perched on top of The Plump Oyster in Tianzifang — the same garden where Mr. Holland hosted his pop-up concept Botanik for a few months last year, until the slow onslaught of winter made outdoor eating steadily less appealing.
Executive chef Elijah Holland
Almost everything at C Pearl is done in house: bread and charcuterie, curing and dry-aging. The charcuterie makes an impressive start to the meal. Lesser charcuteries are served on boards; these are placed upon an elevated wooden pedestal, demanding a rightful place of prominence on the table. The offerings are many and varied, but they all manage without fail to capture our undivided attention, from the darkly fascinating squid ink and duck sausage, to ribbons of duck prosciutto, whose brick red exterior melts into dusty rose, then fleshy pink, and then pearlescent, cream-colored fat.
House-made charcuterie (80/155)
Sharing a fridge with the swaying lengths of charcuterie are blocks of aging beef. A dry-aged sirloin gets chopped into a chunky beef tartare; the richly flavored meat is made sharp and vibrant with pickled celery, rounded out with smoked leek oil and egg yolk emulsion. Wild salmon that has been cured overnight and then cold smoked comes stylishly equipped with salmon roe, lemon chive cream, and thick triangles of toasted brioche.
Aged beef tartare, quail yolk, puffed beef tendon (60)
Smoked salmon pastrami, lemon chive cream, brioche (65)
At times, Mr. Holland’s thoughts can seem almost too unbridled for its current confines, his visions so grand that they deserve more attention than we might spare in C Pearl’s casual sharing format. Many of his ideas are expressed with a deluge of spices and herbs, all of which might not come across readily unless you pay unblinking attention, like the dozen little intricacies in flavors and textures achieved by fermenting the potato stuffing inside a whole squid.
Whole squid, fermented potato, spinach and garlic (90)
But there are simpler pleasures to be found at C Pearl, such as the garfish crusted in herbs and breadcrumbs and fried to a gentle crisp, its delicate flesh punched up with a lively, creamy sauce gribiche. Oysters — a predictable highlight at the restaurant given the group’s background — are exceptionally endearing with a rose-tinted vinegar; they do just as well inside flimsy cocoons of beer batter, twinkling with a Bloody Mary mayo.
Herb crusted garfish, sauce gribiche (70)
Premium oyster platter, rose vinegar (499)
Beer battered oyster, Bloody Mary mayo (90 / 2 pcs)
The pastas are handmade, sometimes non-traditional, but generally easy to like. The pepper-flecked conchiglie open up to a luxurious lamb neck ragu and a shower of pecorino; the ones smothered in sea urchin cream disappear in a heady, golden haze. An inventive take on cacio e pepe reimagined with sweetcorn and crab was somewhat lost on me, yet the tomato-rich taglierini scattered with house-made chorizo satisfies the need for familiarity and comfort.
Lamb neck ragu, sage pasta, pecorino (95)
Sea urchin pasta, cordycep mushroom, salmon roe (195)
Coral crab pappardelle, black pepper, sweetcorn (100)
House pork chorizo and tomato taglierini (85)
An unexpected delight comes in the form of a live mushroom log; beneath the veil of darkness and smoke, the mushrooms are mouthwateringly succulent and delicate, galvanized by a dusting of kimchi powder. Equally inviting is a bowl of clams with its sumac sharpness and sweet cherry tomatoes. The whole turbot is a wonder of tender flesh under a gleaming glaze, whereas a kingfish steak is brought alive with bracing cubes of vegetables à-la-escabeche.
Live mushroom log (95)
Live New Zealand clams (155)
Whole turbot, garlic and lemon oil, chervil (140)
Kingfish cutlet, sauce matelote, escabeche (130)
Then, of course, there is that dry-aged Wagyu T-bone, arriving at the table in a dramatic swirl of fierce char and glistening juices, flanked by tangy smoked oyster cream and an eye-opening sweet potato Dauphinoise that is more than capable of stealing the show.
T-bone M4 Wagyu steak 500g (650)
All of this left us almost too full for dessert. But I would make room for their lovely house-made ice creams, and then again for that sticky date pudding, soft and enticing beneath a melting mess of dulce de leche ice cream.
House ice creams (25 each)
Sticky Chinese red date pudding, dulce de leche ice cream (55)
Garden mint, dark chocolate mousse, ginger (65)
Citrus pavlova (55)